Saturday, May 07, 2005

Genocidal garbage collectors 

While we were all distracted by the British poll and trying to see whether the last one of the "Three Anglos" Bush-Blair-Howard troika to face his people would also be re-elected, another election took place in the Middle East. It is almost becoming a pattern, isn't it? This time, it was Palestinian local elections, and just like in Great Britain, everyone had something to be happy about, or as this headline put it, "Both Fatah and Hamas celebrate Palestinian vote":
While the two groups and election officials offered slightly different figures, unofficial results indicated that Fatah won at least 45 of the 84 municipalities that held ballots in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas won at least 23 municipalities, including convincing victories in the three largest towns that were at stake. In the remaining 16 municipalities, smaller parties or independents got the most votes, and in some cases there was no clear winner.
With its increasing electoral success, Hamas appears to be at pains to appear reasonable and respectable - to a point:
"We are not Iran or the Taliban," a Hamas leader said as the militant group won election in this Palestinian town closest to Israel.

The green Hamas banner was hoisted Friday over city hall, and celebrating leaders like Mohammed Ghazal pledged not to impose their strict religious views on the communities they now rule. "We believe that personal freedom is one of the foundations of Islam," he said...

Leaders of Hamas, which has long opposed negotiations with Israel, tried to allay concerns that they will impose hard-line religious views in the communities they will govern, saying the group will focus on providing better municipal services. In Qalqiliya, many such services are shared with a neighboring Israeli town.
By the way, Hamas still believes in a "one state solution" - Palestine from Jordan to the Mediterranean - so about a quarter of Palestinian local governments are now in the hands of people who want to more efficiently collect trash and more efficiently kill the Jews. Hamas might not be Iran or Taliban, but for all the new-found respect for personal freedom, there is still too much Nazi Germany in there.

The big question of the Middle Eastern politics is whether the everyday practice of democracy will serve to moderate the extremists who choose to participate in the process. Democracy, after all, is a game of constant give-and-take, haggling, and compromise which erodes absolutist positions of all ideological stripes. We can also hope, I guess, that Hamas will become so busy trying to fix sewage pipes that it will firstly simply run out of time and eventually from the inclination for suicide bombings.


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